A Critical Analysis Of The Perception Of Citizens On The Hate Speech Bill And Its Effect On Public Opinion
1.1 Background Of The Study
From the dawn of time, man has had a natural urge to express himself in matters involving his general well-being and the growth of the society in which he finds himself. Although, as societies evolve, this innermost yearning has more frequently been faced with oppressive tendencies in the shape of harsh laws, exile, physical torture, and other repressive measures enacted by the ruling class, man has remained unafraid in his pursuit of free expression of ideas (Layefa and Johnson, 2016). Despite the unparalleled value and unique indispensability of free speech and press freedom to the proper and progressive functioning of society, many repressive and fascist governments, as well as numerous nefarious groups and institutions, and diabolical individuals, continue to harass, malign, victimize, terrorize, imprison, and threaten these noble institutions, according to Oloyede (2008). Indeed, despite the ominous hanging of the sword of repression, torture, and death, among other things, man continues undeterred in his pursuit of free speech and free press, much to the dismay of opponents of free speech. Democracy is often regarded as the world’s most popular form of governance. It is widely regarded as a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Democracy as an ideology, according to Obasanjo and Mabgunje (1992), cited in Ogah and Ogeyni (2014), is a philosophy of governance that places a high value on citizens’ basic freedoms or fundamental human rights, rule of law, right to property, free flow of information, and the right to choose between alternative political positions. Simply stated, democracy is a political system in which the people have sovereignty rather than a tiny clique or an oligarchy, and where the rule of law, majority rule, and constitutionalism are fundamental guiding principles of government. In this context, Ramaswamy (2007) proposed that democracy refers to the rule of the people as opposed to the rule of a single person or group. He went on to explain that, unlike monarchy, dictatorship, or oligarchy, where there is a difference between the ruler and the ruled, it is the people who are both rulers and rulers. In 1999, Nigeria became a member of the League of Democratic Nations. Freedom is one of the most important aspects of a genuine democracy. The capability to express oneself freely without fear of bodily or psychological harm exemplifies one’s ability to be free (by the government or otherwise). The boundaries of freedom of speech have grown more pliable. Globalization, which has physically eliminated all boundaries and is mostly engineered by the internet, may be blamed for this. The internet has revolutionized freedom of speech and expression, which was formerly restricted to television, radio, and print media. Today, we have social media, which allows people or organizations to sit in the comfort of their own homes or workplaces and express themselves freely to millions of other users who are not constrained by the physically defined borders and limits of nations or regions (Joel, 2013). However, in a constitutional democracy, freedom of speech and the press implies the right to speak anything one wants, subject to the repercussions of the law as the case may be; such laws must be fair and fairly justiciable. Thus, liberty, or freedom of speech and the press, refers to two distinct concepts. These include imposing no previous restrictions on publishing and press freedom; this entails imposing no prior restrictions on what to publish and what not to post. There should be no before publication censorship. Every individual has the right to express his or her feelings, facts, information, or publishing to the public. To deny this liberty is to suffocate the press and freedom of speech. 2013 (Joel). Nigerians were recently informed that the Senate was considering a very contentious measure. Senator AliyuSabiAbdullahi, head of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, is a proponent of the proposed legislation, dubbed the “Hate Speech Bill.” According to its Senate sponsor, the Hate Speech Bill aims to eradicate hate speech and prevent harassment based on ethnicity, religion, or race, among other things. It imposes harsh penalties for offenses such as ethnic hatred. It states that anyone who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes, or directs the performance of any material, written or visual, that is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or involves the use of threatening, abusive, or insulting words, commits an offence (Punch, 2018). If that isn’t enough to scare you, the penalty for these offenses include a five-year prison term or a fine of not less than N10 million, or both. The death sentence, which is imposed when any kind of hate speech results in the death of another person, is the icing on the cake (Punch, 2018). Hate speeches are utterances, written papers, advertorials, musicals, or any other kind of writing intended to disparage a person, a group – religious, social, political, or business – gender, or race. In certain nations, hate speech is punishable by laws such as sedition, encouragement to violence, and verbal abuse. Hate speech, according to Ezeibe (2015), is any statement, gesture, behavior, writing, or exhibition that may encourage others to violence or prejudice. In essence, such statements degrade the dignity of others. Hate speech is a broad term that may include insults to people in positions of authority or minority groups, as well as degrading remarks directed at individuals who are especially prominent in society. Hate speech may be manipulated at crucial moments, such as during election campaigns, when charges of sponsoring hate speech are exchanged among political opponents or exploited by those in power to suppress dissent and criticism (Ezeibe, 2015). The spreading of hate speech and obscene language has been a current trend in journalistic malpractice in the country. Indeed, the press has fallen into the trap of covering hate speech by directly citing from interviews, press releases, advertorials, and even claimed internet sources. In Nigeria, popular media outlets such as AIT, Channels, Thisday, Vanguard, and The Nation, among others, were flooded with campaigns by several political parties displaying blatant abuses of the right to free speech, including hate speech and other types of foul language, during the 2015 general elections. While conventional media continues to fight hate speech, the advent of new media has expanded the battleground in the hate speech story. Because of its decentralized, anonymous, and participatory nature, the new media provides an excellent platform for adapting and spreading different statements and harsh language. The frequency of harsh speech and bad language on social media in Nigeria, particularly on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, touching on political and national problems, as well as social contact, is alarming. This is because it contributes to societal discontent among tribes, political classes, and religions, as well as within friends. While some argue that classifying hate speech as a criminal act infringes on citizens’ right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution, others argue that hate speech is not free speech and that criminalizing it would not infringe on citizens’ right to freedom of expression in any way. Instead, criminalizing hate speech encourages people to take responsibility for their freely stated opinions by holding them responsible. As a result, the purpose of this research is to look at how people feel about the Hate Speech Bill and how it affects public opinion.
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the freedom of the general public, anyone and everyone, including the press and civil society groups, to receive and transmit ideas and information via speech, written word, and other media under sections 22 and 39. Every individual shall have the right to freedom of speech, including the freedom to hold views and to receive and transmit ideas and information without hindrance, says Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution. However, with the recent passage of the Hate Speech Bill, the argument over what constitutes hate speech, especially on social media, has become a national conversation. Only a few voices have raised the alarm, despite the fact that critical sectors of society such as the mass media, civil society, pressure organizations, academics, authors, and creative/performing artists may suffer the brunt of the odious legislation. Furthermore, the citizens may see it as a means for the government to oppress and suppress them in their areas of deficiency and this is seen as bad for airing of public opinion. As a result, the purpose of this research is to investigate citizens perceptions of the Hate Speech Bill and its impact on public opinion in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective Of The Study
The primary objective of the study is as follows
- To examine the level of Hate Speech Bill awareness among the Nigerian citizens
- To determine the citizens perception about the Hate Speech Bill
- To determine citizens views on the relationship between the Hate Speech Bill and public opinion
- To investigate if hate speech bill will have affect on the freedom of speech of the citizens
1.4 Research Questions
The following questions have been prepared for the study
- What is the level of Hate Speech Bill awareness among Nigerian citizens?
- Does the citizens have perception about the Hate Speech Bill?
- What are their views on the relationship between the Hate Speech Bill and public opinion?
- To proffer recommendation on how hate speech bill will not affect the freedom of speech of the citizens
1.4 Significance Of The Study
The significance of this study cannot be underestimated as:
- This study will examine A Critical Analysis Of The Perception Of Citizens On The Hate Speech Bill And Its Effect On Public Opinion
- The findings of this research work will undoubtedly provide the much needed information to government organizations, judicial system, and academia.
1.5 Scope Of The Study
This study will examine A Critical Analysis Of The Perception Of Citizens On The Hate Speech Bill And Its Effect On Public Opinion and also the level of Hate Speech Bill awareness among the Nigerian citizens
The study will also, determine the citizens perception about the Hate Speech Bill and determine citizens views on the relationship between the Hate Speech Bill and public opinion. Political Science and Public Administration students of the University of Lagos will serve as enrolled participant for this study.
1.6 Limitation Of The Study
This study was constrained by a number of factors which are as follows:
Just like any other research, ranging from unavailability of needed accurate materials on the topic under study, inability to get data
Financial constraint , was faced by the researcher ,in getting relevant materials and in printing and collation of questionnaires
Time factor: time factor pose another constraint since having to shuttle between writing of the research and also engaging in other academic work making it uneasy for the researcher
1.7 Definition Of Terms
Hate speech bill:
A law to prosecute abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group
The collective opinion on a specific topic or voting intention relevant to a society.
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